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June 2011
Yoga: The Stress Buster
Prachi Patodia Saraf
 
Can yoga help us control anger, stress and anxiety? The answer is yes. Through regular practice of pure form of yoga, we can learn to control our mind and emotions and become a calm person.

Our restless mind is made to think all the time; and it is almost impossible to free our mind of thoughts and distractions. Our thoughts induce anxiety. During the practice of yoga, we free our mind of thoughts, develop inward awareness, concentrate on our breathing and our body, and withdraw from the external world. Without any stress and without realizing it, our mind and body become tranquil.

One’s state of mind is like a simple equation with the right balance between body and mind being equal to a peaceful state of mind. Asanas are the body part of the equation and pranayama and pratyaharaare the mind end of the equation,” says Ms. Kamini Bobde, Trustee, Yoga Sadhana Seva Trust, and yoga teacher who has cured severe cases of hypertension, depression, migraine, etc, through yoga.

Asanas
Control of posture in yoga is called Asana. The mind and the endocrine (hormonal) system affect each other. Asanas have a vital impact on the endocrine glands by making them more balanced, which help relieve tensions. Asanas help alleviate pain and achieve muscular relaxation. Even sweating during yoga throws out the toxins from the body.

Let’s take an example of Paschimottana Asana. You sit on the floor and stretch your legs forward without bending at the knees. Raise your hands upwards and bend forward to hold the toes with both hands, drop your forehead on the knees and feel the spine fully stretched. “This Asana stretches the entire spinal column and the central nervous system, thus enabling nervous and pranic impulses to pass directly up to the higher centres,” adds Ms. Bobde. This Asana relieves our tensions by regulating the adrenal glands and the whole system.

Other Asanas include:
  • Dhanurasana – Bow pose
  • Ardha Chandrasana – Half moon pose
  • Poorna Titali Asana - Half and full butterfly pose
  • Shashank Asana - Rabbit pose
  • Vajra Asana – Diamond pose
  • Anand Madira Asana – Intoxicating bliss pose
  • Koorma Asana– Tortoise pose
Pranayama
Breathing is something we normally do without even concentrating on it; however it has a huge impact on our health. In yoga, pranayama is a technique of breathing, which helps in improving the oxygen supply in the body and detoxifying the body of carbon dioxide, which has its own benefits physiologically. Becoming aware of our breathing helps our restless mind keep away thoughts and makes us more serene. We gain mastery over our mind through our breath control.

“Mind is the master of the senses and the breath is the master of the mind.”  (Hatha-Yoga Pradipika 4:29).

A good example of this is Nadi Shodan, a technique of breathing that rejuvenates the body. The mind is cleared of distracting thoughts and tension is relieved. 

Pratyahara
The practice of pratyahara helps us withdraw our awareness from the sense organs thereby leading to internalisation of awareness.  Pratyahara done after pranayama is very powerful for achieving a tranquil mind. Pratyahara practice can be achieved through Shavasana and Yoga Nidra or even meditation practice.

Mantra Chanting
Also called Japa, this is a method of repeatedly chanting a mantra given by a Guru.  Chanting can slowly draw out negative aspects of the subconscious mind, elevate your life state and calm the mind.  Even if one does not know the meaning of the mantra, it is very effective, as the sound of the chanting stimulates a certain effect on the psychic nature of a person.  You can also chant Gayatri Mantra or Aum, 11, 27, 54 or 108 times, depending on your capacity and level of practice.

Please note, that one must be taught yoga by a proficient yoga guru. Yoga should be performed with full mental awareness and correct breathing pattern. There should be harmony between the mind and the body.

Prachi Patodia Saraf is a health enthusiast and marthon runner. She has a Bachelors' in Management from The Wharton school(USA).


    
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